We take a look at FC Kansas City's 2-0 victory over the Washington Spirit, the season up to now and look forward.
FC Kansas City seemed to dominate that game. Are the Blues that good or is Washington that bad?
Washington has been fairly abysmal and now owns a 1-6-3 record. Two of the three draws came early in the season when all the teams were still trying to put their teams together and were playing defensively. Their one win came against the even more hapless Seattle (pre-Hope Solo) and even then managed to give up two goals to the toothless Reign. Washington players and coaches all looked quite dis-spirited...
When Kansas City is playing up to their potential, they are even better and look to be getting stronger. They will have all of their players for the rest of the season (no announced call-ups for national team players) with one exception and have found that most of the bench players are ready to step in and start without missing a beat.
Lauren Cheney can be the best player on the field when she wants to be
Cheney came into that game having played two recent games for the U.S., scored two goals, had two assists on Wambach's record-setting night, traveled from coast-to-coast and back to the middle, finishing making wedding plans and was admittedly very tired while scoring two more goals on a hot day against Washington. "It was a grind," she said after the game. Well a grind for her is a career night for many players. There are times where she is not at her best but there is little doubt she can be amazing.
Kristie Mewis should not play in the back but we will probably see it more and more
There is nothing to not love about Mewis. She plays hard, is skillful, quick, hates to lose, has a good shot from outside and has the most baby-faced, serious game face you can possibly imagine. With all that said, she is not a good outside back (yet).
U.S. coach Tom Sermanni has been starting Kristie at outside back and FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski followed suit in the last match. Mewis herself has stated that she likes playing further forward but mostly wants to play, so any spot she can get on the field is good. Andonovski probably likes her there because for the same reason Sermanni does, it allows him to get another talented, fast attacking minded player on the field.
Mewis has a great future with the U.S. and in league play, but it will take some time to train this attacker into someone who can read and defend the runs that will come at her (especially at the international level) and will recognize when to shift, when to cover, when to attack, when to pull back. Difficult enough for one with experience, even harder when you are getting those lessons in games that count.
With the experience of Sauerbrunn and Sesselman at enter back, Mewis will not hurt the team most of the time but Merritt Mathias and Katie Kelly are both better options at outside back in the short term.
Kansas City fans are no strangers to this transition, having watched Chance Myers with Sporting KC make a similar move. Fast, skilled, blonde...
FCKC is deep ( just don't start the entire bench at the same time)
The Blues had seemed to have a consistent starting lineup when everyone was available but in the last match that lineup card was tossed. When FC Kansas City was missing six national team players due to call ups and one to injury, Andonovski had to start his bench. One of the things he found at was that they can all play and play well. The other thing he found out was don't start the entire bench at one time if you don't have to.
Another thing he and fans found out was there several of those bench players deserve some starting time. Erika Tymrak and Melissa Henderson got their first real time over the last few games and Courtney Jones got some starts. All of these ladies played well.
As the team matures, they are no longer single threaded to Cuellar
When the season started, Mexican National team forward Renae Cuellar was FC Kansas City's attack plan. Play the ball over the top and let her run onto it, slip the ball through and let her run onto it, play the ball to her and let her use her speed and strength to turn and get a one-on-one with the keeper. If anything else happened great, but get the ball forward.
It did not take long for teams to figure that out, sometimes a minute after she scored but figure it out they did. As teams started to defend her better, Andonovski would counter with bringing midfielders up on the outside to create additional pressure. That worked at times. What the Blues learned is they were often generating shots but doing it so quickly that nobody else could join in the attack to get rebounds or get on the end of a cross.
The team is now starting to come together and with more experience they are developing more options. They can use Henderson to hold the ball up to allow Cheney, Tymrak or Farrelly to get close to goal before launching a shot. Jones' strength and speed on the outside and newly signed but not league approved Tiffany Cameron's slashing runs give the Blues a lot more options up top. They can start tailoring the lineup to take advantage of the opponent, not just the best players available.